I was on “vacation” when Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino was killed by minions of the Marcos dictatorship on August 21, 1983 at the airport that now bears his name. By “vacation” I mean that I momentarily left our mountain base to visit my family in the lowlands, or Sitio Kawayan, Barangay Sambag 2.
I was with the propaganda staff in 1981 up to 1984. We initially were based near the boundary of Cebu City and Talisay (then a town, now a city) until security matters forced us to transfer to the city’s hinterlands. The change of scenery was a struggle, more so because in the mountains communication, notably to my family, was difficult.
Our old house was a nipa and wood affair, an anomaly in a city where roofs made of corrugated sheets was the norm. And 1983 being among the lowest periods of our family economically, my father Tiyong and mother Juling made a living selling firewood, repacked charcoal, etc. In their makeshift store my father hung his old transistor radio.
“Patay na,” I remember my father mutter as we gathered around the radio trying to make out what little report could be heard the moment Aquino arrived on that fateful day 24 years ago. I remember the silence. It was like we all felt the same seeming helplessness that must have visited even those who knew Ninoy well.
I do not know how much of Ninoy’s death affected my resolve to fight the Marcos dictatorship even to the point of leaving my family and risking my life for it. But I grew up with a father that was very politically inclined. I imbibed his admiration for such politicians as staunch Cebuano Marcos critic Talyux Bacalso and, yes, Ninoy.
In 1984, I left the propaganda staff and helped organized the peasants in the hinterlands of Cebu City for the national democratic movement and the growing anti-Marcos struggle. I led the farmers in those numerous rallies and protest actions that steadily grew in number. Those activities contributed to the weakening of the Marcos presidency, making him ripe for the picking in February 1986.
Ninoy, to my mind then, was but a reformer while we prided ourselves of being revolutionaries. But his death contributed much in making the Filipinos of the dangers of tyranny and state fascism. It’s just sad that two decades after his death, people seem to have forgotten. Marcos is gone, but state fascism–or its benign and deceptive form–seems to be wiggling back.
–Candido O. Wenceslao, August 20, 2007